A former deputy attorney general today heaped praise on most of the eight U.S. attorneys who were fired after he left the job, testifying that he only considered one of them a weak prosecutor who had trouble managing his office.
James B. Comey, the Justice Department’s second-in-command from 2003 until August 2005, also told a House Judiciary subcommittee that he was never informed about an effort by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his aides to remove a large group of prosecutors that began in early 2005.
Comey’s testimony further undermined claims by Gonzales and his aides that the dismissed prosecutors had performance problems that led to their dismissals, and underscores the extent to which the firings, which originated in the White House, were handled outside the normal chain of command at Justice.
The testimony came after revelations Wednesday that the Justice Department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility are looking into whether a former Gonzales aide, Monica M. Goodling, had illegally considered political affiliation in reviewing the hiring of career prosecutors for some U.S. attorney’s offices.
The inspector general and OPR also are conducting a joint internal probe of the U.S. removal of the eight U.S. attorneys last year, which has sparked an uproar in Congress over the Justice Department’s handling of the matter.